More than Just a Job Hunt
In Manitoba, not unlike elsewhere in the country, women make up approximately three percent of the skilled construction trades workforce. While this number is relatively low today, the interest among women in these under-represented trades is increasing. The Office to Advance Women Apprentices was first launched in Manitoba in March of 2019 to serve the needs of tradeswomen in the province. Women like Renee Yetman, a Level 2 Carpenter, have found their way to the office and are taking advantage of the many services offered.
Word of Mouth
Renee first heard of the Office to Advance Women Apprentices from a colleague while working on the Keeyask Project, a hydroelectric generating station project in northern Manitoba. Initially she reached out to the office to find additional support in the construction industry and to help further her goal to become a Red Seal Carpenter.
Growing up in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, Renee had always enjoyed working with her hands. She found work with a drywall company and enjoyed the physicality of the work. When things started to slow down and she learned she would be laid off, she took the opportunity to research and explore the possibility of a career in the trades.
“I had thought about electrical or welding,” says Renee, “I did some research into the trades that would be of interest to me. I looked to women who were already working in the trades and learned about their experiences.”
Stepping Stones and Big Goals
One other major goal she had was to attain her Grade 12 diploma. Renee reached out to Workplace Education Manitoba in Brandon, Manitoba where she was living. Through WEM, she was able to enroll in an academic upgrading program at Assiniboine Community College which resulted in her becoming a high school graduate. Well on her way to the next career goal, Renee found Westbran Employment Resource Centre which offered an introduction to trades program. This seven-month program gives participants the opportunity to gain experience with basic hand and power tools and exposure to carpentry related skills. This experience helped Renee to make the decision to go forward in the carpentry trade at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology where she attained her level one.
Setbacks and Steps Forward
Not long after registering with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices in 2019, Renee suffered an injury which made it difficult to work in her trade. During her rehabilitation she took a position with the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development.
“It was a good experience working in the office, but I missed using my hands and being more physical,” Renee says. “Carpentry allows me to see the fruits of my labour and feel a sense of pride in what I’ve helped to create.”
When she was ready to return to the construction field, Renee reached out to the office in an effort to help her find work in spring of 2020. Andrea, the project co-ordinator, met with Renee to review her experience, her resume, and to talk about employment opportunities.
“We really strive to understand the needs of the tradeswomen we work with, learn about what they have to offer an employer and help her get her foot in the door with a great resume and interview skills,” Andrea says.
At the recent Manitoba Women in Trades Conference, Andrea was able to connect with employers in the industry, including John Bockstael of Bockstael Construction Ltd. She reached out to them to see if there were any opportunities for a Level 2 carpenter like Renee and all three scheduled a time to meet virtually to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions around in person meetings.
“We used a video conferencing app to connect one evening, spending 90 minutes doing interview prep,” Andrea says. “In our interview prep sessions with tradeswomen we talk about some common pitfalls to avoid in an interview, tips and advice for selling her skills to the employer, and focusing on specific questions that may be asked in an interview. Doing interview preparation in advance of the interview has really shown to help our clients bring focus to all the skills and experience in order to concisely and confidently demonstrate why she is the best candidate for the job.”
Welcome to the Family
Renee is now a proud member of the Bockstael family. She was warmly welcomed, works with a good crew, and appreciates the company’s focus on safety.
“To women thinking of joining the trades just go for it … don’t let anything hold you back,” Renee says.
While the initial goal for Office to Advance Women Apprentices is to connect clients with work in their trade, that’s never where the story ends.
“We support retention by connecting with both the employer and the tradeswoman on a regular basis,” says Andrea. “We want to ensure if there are any challenges, we are there to help and provide any support necessary to facilitate a positive employment experience.
“All the support we offer and the work we do is the culmination of more than 11 years of experience and know-how built by the Office to Advance Women Apprentices Newfoundland and Labrador.”
It’s Your Turn
Wondering how you can find support from people like Andrea and become a success story like Renee? Register with our office and discover a world of possibilities and the support to get you there!